Through a referral, the school district where I had worked for 21 years, asked that I return in order to be hired as a homebound teacher and help a particular student. That was two months and six students ago. I have worked with students on homebound before. They had been former students of mine so it was easy to step into the role of the homebound teacher and meet the student at their house a couple of times a week in order to help them complete their assignments and continue to work towards the credits they needed for graduation. However, this time around, about 15 years later, I find that 5 of the 6 students I’m working with are home due to anxiety.
We all feel anxious are certain times. Being asked to speak in front of a crowd, impromptu or planned, can still create anxiety in most people. A little bit of stress, anxiety on the very low side of the scale, can help us meet deadlines and complete tasks that aren’t our favorites to do. But with these students, their anxiety level is such that they cannot function in a regular classroom. A couple have been in treatment. Most are on medications. I’m not their psychiatrist, so I’m not sure what other therapies they might be doing. Where would they, or are they, learning coping skills? What if they end up being able to function at home, but not in a grocery store? Can you see how this could severely impact their lives?
I wonder what causes these students to have such severe anxiety that they cannot attend school. We all know that children, any grade K-12, can say and do the most unkind things. Is it that bullying is a cause? Do effected students so fear being judged by others that they don’t go to school? A few of the students I work with don’t go out to the grocery store or anywhere with any friends they may have. As a type of phobia, it’s more than just cajoling the student to attend school or take a trip with a parent on an errand. If a student is more predisposed to anxiety at this level, then shouldn’t interventions and coping skills be directly taught?
As a yoga instructor, I know how tools and techniques of the practice can affect a person. Would this be acceptable to students who are in the public school system? Breath work to help center the mind, mantras as something else to focus on besides the endless worry, postures to learn acceptance for how they show up could all be possible tools for these students to learn in an effort to overcome their anxiety. Some plan to return to the classroom once they feel they have everything under control. As adults, we know how rare that is and how short-lived. It seems possible that these students will have to find ways to deal with the anxiety for the rest of their lives.
How do you handle the feeling of being anxious? Is there a limit as to how much a person can deal with, and if so, what do people do when they tip to the other side of that line? I welcome your comments below.